The superintendent and the board of the National Parks Institute have made efforts to improve fire fighting on the south side and have formed groups to help protect the park. The best-outfitted fire station is called Pajaritos. Support from other firefighting groups, good communication and access roads all help to control fires. Since 1946, a 20 m wide by 24.5 km long firebreak has prevented fires from spreading to higher elevations on the south side. In addition to the infrastructure, El Ávila counts on the help of volunteers for fighting fires, as well as donations from an important group of private companies. With the help of individuals who use the park, forty million bolívares (US $40,000) were collected to be used for reforestation after the 2001 fires.
The Panamco and Chinotto company donated more than 12 million bolívares (US $12,000) and 4,000 trees. Companies like Procter & Gamble, Telcel, Banco Mercantil Foundation, Petróleos de Venezuela and the Metropolitan University among others, donate funds towards the maintenance of the firebreak. Reforestation is a priority for the board of the National Parks Institute, and areas damaged by fires are recovering thanks to a program designed by the superintendence. The importance of the park to city dwellers and publicity given to it by the media, have generated a support group, which INPARQUES can utilize for fighting fires. It would be ideal if other national parks had similar support groups to help prevent fires and improve management.
- Agricultural communities
It is necessary to determine how many people live inside the park and surrounding areas, as well as the type of crops grown on park land. The farming town of Birongo, some five km away from the park in Miranda State, has grown significantly, and according to ranger reports, may now occupy park land. This needs to be verified.
This is a complex problem that cannot be solved by relocating people because they could simply return. Their presence is a consequence of the dire social and economic crisis the country is experiencing at this time, and few resources are available to help these people. Institutions with experience in handling social emergencies like these should intervene to help solve this problem, not only for the park, but for the city as well. Brazil has had a positive experience getting homeless people involved in recycling programs affording them homes and a more dignified way of life.
Environmental Protection and Recuperation Zone
The threats that human settlements inside the park generate pose a difficult problem. The number of people living within park boundaries is very high, and the parks proximity to one of the most populated cities in the country makes relocation of these people an uneconomical solution. It has been suggested that new limits be drawn to exclude these populated areas but this would be interpreted as INPARQUES having given up under pressure. Ironically, it turns out that having these settlements within the park actually enables INPARQUES to control them better than if they were excluded. The long-term solution would entail turning these people into allies of the park through environmental education programs. This could teach them the value the park has for them, and eventually allow for economically sustainable practices to be worked out according to the Management Plan for the Environmental Protection and Recuperation Zone.
It is not feasible to eradicate all exotic species from park grounds due to their high number. Even so, the effort to solve this problem begins by reforesting with only native species.
Ecologists working in Venezuelan universities should be consulted and involved in designing technical solutions addressing the simultaneous problems of fires and exotic species invasions. It is clear to these scientists that these introduced species have altered the original dynamics of this ecosystem, and that the recurring fires have become a natural cycle of the grasslands now common on the south side. What is not burned in a given year accumulates to support a more intense fire in following years. It is important to study the current systems and come up with a special plan to manage some of the African grasses like Panicum maximum and Melinis minutiflora that covers the southern slope of the park.
The centralization of resources
The solution to this problem can only come from INPARQUES itself, which was the source of this uneven distribution of resources. The attention that El Ávila garners in the general population should be directed towards the less well known areas. These tend to be farther away from the city and need the most help as far as infrastructure is concerned.
The company that won the bid for repairing and managing the cable car and the Humboldt Hotel has to pay 5.29% of its net income to the Venezuelan government for the next 30 years. Fondoturismo-the state's tourism agency-will receive these resources three years after the 1999 agreement. ParksWatch recommends that some of this money be directly invested in the park to alleviate the problems caused by the construction of the cable car. The national entity receiving this payment should be INPARQUES and not Fondoturismo, because the infrastructure is located inside the park's jurisdiction. These resources could be allocated to solve the lack of infrastructure and personnel problems in the northern slope and the west area of the park.
Although poaching is not carried out at an especially harmful degree, education programs addressing the importance of the maintenance of biodiversity should be made available to the population. These programs could highlight the possibility of ecotourism as an alternate income for people who live in communities where the threat of poaching exists.